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History of Magnificent Malagash

Malagash, a small, picturesque, seaside community located along the beautiful Northumberland Strait. The area is rich in history, a legacy from the many early settlers.

The French

There we many thriving French families in the Malagash area.  The French started to settle Malagash in the year 1713.  Many of the French dykes engineered to create fertile farm land by keep water away can still be found in the area.

For many years the Acadians had been urged to take an oath of allegiance to the British Crown but had always evaded the request or refused.

Many people believe the Expulsion of the Acadians began at Grand Pre.  However, the very first of the Acadians to be torn from their homes were taken from Tatamagouche to Wallace including the Malagash families.  It was another 3 weeks before Grand Pre was visited, but unlike the later incident when all the people were transported, only the adult males were carried off from these first villages to feel the blow.  No doubt the men hoped to eventually find their way back to homes and loved ones.  


|When studying about most incidents in history there is a long line of stepping-stones or signposts leading to the final event. Sometimes people involved cannot see it as it is happening but looking back one can clearly see the movements that led to or precipitated in to the final action. In this case the actions of June, 1755 led to the final removal of the Acadian families in northern Nova Scotia.

Such a signpost took place on June 17, 1755, the day that Fort Beauséjour surrendered to a British military expedition. It was from then on the days of the Acadian presence in Nova Scotia were numbered.


Supported by Massachusetts Governor, William Shirley and by the presence in Halifax of British Admirals, Edward Boscawen and Savage Mostyn, the Nova Scotia Council ordered a last meeting with the Acadian delegates.

On July 28, 1755, close to a hundred Acadian delegates appeared before the council, and when asked again to swear an unconditional oath of allegiance to the British Crown, they refused and were all imprisoned.

Now with the unanimous support of the council and with a ruling issued by Nova Scotia Chief Justice Jonathan Belcher, Lieutenant Governor Charles Lawrence ordered the expulsion of the Acadians and the seizure of all their properties and belongings, the name of His Majesty King George II of Great Britain.

The first act in the removal took place in the small community of Remsheg, now called Wallace, the community next to Malagash.

On August 15th 1755, 40 British and New England militia soldiers proceeded to Remsheg from Tatamagouche where they had arrived the previous day. They were divided into two groups, ene of 20 soldiers using canoes to go along the coast to Remsheg and the second going on foot to meet up with the canoes at Remsheg.

A few days earlier, a contingent of 200 soldiers had left from Fort Cumberland near Amherst. One group of about 100 men, led by a Lt. Lewis, proceeded east along the Northumberland Strait towards Tatamagouche. A second group led by a Capt. Abijah Willard also left Fort Cumberland and headed southeast to the settlement of Cobiquid, which is now called Truro. The two groups met on the trail between Tatamagouche and Cobiquid where they encamped and read their sealed orders.

Capt. Willard was a captain in the 4th Massachusetts Regiment, Gov. William Shirley's Provincial Regiment. He was a soldier provided by the governor to help with the British in the French -English conflict. 


When the officers opened the sealed orders, it had been a surprise to Willard. In his diary, Willard described the order as “something shocking”.  He went on to describe the plan "to burn all the houses that I found on the road”.

So Willard and Lewis, with their two hundred soldiers went on to Tatamagouche with the mission to capture the resident Acadian people along the North Shore including the families in Malagash  and burn their homes.

During the next morning, Aug. 15, Willard's diary states, “I sent Captain Lewis with 40men  to a place about 12 miles from this place, called Ramshak.”

While Lewis was on the mission to Remshak, Captain Willard had the soldiers gather together all the men of Tatamagouche, and had all the buildings and homes searched. Willard then told the Acadian men that they would have to go with him to Fort Cumberland. He also told them he was going to burn their homes and buildings but also told them they could bring their women and children with them or leave them there. The men, still in shock, consulted with each other and decide to leave the women and children in Tatamagouche.

Willard wrote in his diary about the incident “they chose to leave their families which readily granted, for I did not want the trouble of the women and children”.

So unlike the later incident at Grand Pre when all the people were transported, only the adult males were carried off from these first villages.  No doubt the men hoped to eventually find their way back to homes and loved ones.  The women and children were left behind to fend for themselves, and when in October the British finally sent a ship to gather them up, none were to be found.   Very likely, tidings of the affair had reached their countrymen on St. John’s Island, and these had come to their aid.  As the summer was hardly over, and hard winter at least two months off, it is safe to assume they did not perish.

On the morning of Aug. 16, Captain Lewis returned from his journey to Remsheg with three captured families, having burned several houses. The story continues in Willard's diary. He stated he told the soldiers to collect all the provisions they could carry and then preceded to burn all the buildings in the village including several vessels in the Harbour loaded with supplies for Louisburg. That afternoon Willard marched his group of soldiers and captives on towards Cobiquid.  Eventually he and his prisoners arrived at Fort Cumberland.


Today, little remains to show where these first settlers lived, laboured and died.  Here and there in the woods, along the north shore of the bay, an old cellar is to be found, over which once rested an Acadian home.  On the cleared farmland not a trace of any sort is to be seen in verification of their initial homesteading.  No burial ground can be found, and there would be some of their number die in the thirty-five years or more they spent alongside Baie Remsheg.  It is possible their dead were taken to Tatamagouche for interment in sacred soil at the Chapel there, for we know the Abbe le Loutre, that bitter enemy of the English, had a chapel built at that settlement and came often to visit his flock, at their wilderness parish. No doubt the people from Remsheg went, when conditions permitted, to attend mass as there appears to have been no place of worship in their own hamlet.

Fable has it that the gold accumulated from the sales of their produce in Louisburg is buried somewhere along the shore.  That could well be as they no doubt expected to be able to return and hid their wealth in safety against that day.  But they never did return, and if they buried their gold, it will probably remain undiscovered forever just where those unhappy souls hid it away.  The dykes alone carry the secret of their hiding place, and they will keep their counsel well.

And because it was one of the most outstanding though unhappy episodes in the long and colourful history of Nova Scotia and a tragedy beyond compare to those affected, it is perhaps not amiss to draw attention to a little-known fact - it was here at Tatamagouche and Remsheg that the Expulsion of the Acadians began.

Excerpted from an article by Francis W. Grant in The Oxford Journal of August 25, 1955 and other details summarized from the SaltWire Network article posted August 19, 2015.


Next to come were the Loyalists.  The Remsheg grant was surveyed by Baker in 1786.  In Malagash, 20,000 acres in one continuous tract was granted by the British Government to Colonel Joseph Pernetter, a French soldier who had fought in the British Army.


Subsequently, he traded it with a fellow officer, Isaac Ackley, for a grant on the La Havre River.  Malagash contained 58 land grants, some already settled by 1782, notably by the Treens and Teeds.   After the survey, other Loyalists and disbanded soldiers such as Stephen Canfield, David and Isaac Teed, Solomon Horton and Colonel Gilbert Purdy followed.  They were given 200 acres each through the drawing of lots.  Many of the original grantees never saw their land, having already settled in other parts of the province and New Brunswick.  By 1790, the families here were Treen, Ackley, Horton, Austin, Maby, Purdy, Treen, MacNab, Dewar and Wilson.

In about 1816, many Irish families came to Nova Scotia and settled on some of these grants.  Michael Cantwell and Terrance Carty, his wife and three sons Patrick, James and William came from County Cork that year.  A short time after William Smyth and Patrick MacKay came from County Clare.  Edward Carberry came about the same time from County Kilkenny.  By 1820, all the land in the Malagash district was owned.

Ship Building

There were quite a number of ship builders making both large sailing vessels and small fishing boats.  Old maps show five (5) different locations on the Malagash Peninsula that were deemed ship building sites.


Treens had a boat yard and built three brigantines that traded to England.  Others were built at the Dock below Clair Ross’s place and on the west end of Stewart’s Island.   One small island which is completely submerged at high tide was called Shipyard Island.  

Lobster Canning and Fishing

The lobsters used to be very plentiful.  Initially, farmers would take an ox team to the shore when the tide was out and get a load of lobsters which they boiled and fed to the pigs.  People didn’t really think of it as food for their table, but the Americans were starting to fish lobster for American cuisine.  


Dan Matheson was the first to have a lobster cannery at Malagash. John MacInnes had one in 1911 that canned lobster for over 50 seasons - the longest of them all. Burnham and Morrell, an American Company, had a large factory on Saddle Island employing over 60 persons.  Other canners were Duncan and Jack MacDonald, Herbert and Sam Smith, Burt and Edward MacLennan of Malagash Point, George Langille who was in partnership with Ira Purdy and Fred Dakin from Pugwash.    

The operators used to charter a schooner to deliver approximately 200 or more barrels of bait each spring from the Magdelines.  Some springs the ice was late getting away, and they couldn’t catch them, or ice and unfavourable winds kept them from delivering.  Sometimes, the herring were so plentiful on the Malagash that the bait from the Magdelines wasn’t needed. The nets would be as full as they would hold, and one danger would be losing the nets from their sinking.  When they could not sell any more herring, farmers would put them on the land as fertilizer. 

One particular year, 1902, after a blow, the whole of Wallace Harbour was full of herring.  About 80 nets were sunk at Fox Harbour, they were so full.  Everyone helped each other get their nets in and the spawn was in a windrow three feet high along the beach.  Another fish that would strike in large numbers periodically were the squid.  Everyone would load them with forks or shovels which they would put on the hayfields and rake up the dry skins with the hay.  Scallops were also fished from the Malagash wharf.

Local fishermen would go out in sailboats two or three times a day and get a boat load of lobster to bring to the canneries.  

Excerpted from an article by Arthur Treen

The Cheese Factory

The first cheese factory in Malagash was owned by a Mr. Archibald at Stake Road for a few years until 1897.  Allison Treen gathered the milk up the south shore and Sandy Porteous on the North Shore Road.

The farmers got together in February of 1898 and started a company known as the Malagash Butter and Cheese Company.  Shares were sold at $5.00 and William MacNeill was appointed chair.  They did not find water where they wanted it, so they decided to build on Alex Porteous’ land and use Mary Treen’s spring which they leased for 30 cents.  For the first few years they had to hand pump the water up grade into the boiler to make the next day’s cheese.  The cheese factory was built by Beatty and MacKenzie in the spring and measured 56' x 28'.  They brought the lumber in from Colchester County, shingled it with cedar on all sides and had 3 doors and 9 windows with 112 pains of glass. They finished it for $360 in time for cheese making .

The first cheesemaker was Byron MacLellan.  He was the head of Brookfield Creamery.    A variety of cheese makers and helpers followed.  In 1915, the factory caught fire.  Luckily Colin MacKenzie was driving home past the factory and put it out with pails of whey.  By 1922, the cheesemaker was earning $70.00 a month.

The cheese was of very good quality - so much so that the government had an inquiry from some place in the Southern US of how much they could supply; however the cheese wasn’t made in such a quantity.  One year, they sent cheese to the Halifax Exhibition and got first prize.

A lot of farmers started into fox farming and kept their milk for foxes.  Others had gone to trucking salt to Malagash Station and the wharf. A number of farmers had two teams of horses and wagons and were too busy to bother with milk.  Scotsburn Creamery started and farmers were sending cream and had the skim milk for calves.  They only had to deliver once or twice a week to the train station.  After a while the patrons of the Cheese Factory got so few in number and the milk supply so small that the cost of manufacture was too high, and they never started up again.  In 1929 after 31 seasons, the factory closed.

Excerpted from an article by Arthur Treen

Churches and Schools

In 1791, Reb. William Grandin, who had been preaching to the settlers of Westchester Mountain visited Malagash.  His strong stand against all amusements which excluded religion from the heart convinced many to convert.  In 1793, Dr. McGregor, a Presbyterian preacher reached out to the Scottish settlers of Malagash.  A Methodist Church was built in 1818 on land donated by William Treen.  The first burial in the graveyard was 1826 and it was that of William who had donated the land.  The first church burned in 1860, and another was built on the same property.  A Presbyterian Church was built shortly after the Methodist church.   In 1890, John Munro built a Presbyterian Church at Blue Sea corner.  In 1938, it was moved on skids to be nearer to the Salt Mine.

There have been a number of schools on the Malagash Peninsula.  Malagash Centre School was on the south shore road near Purdy Loop.  The East Wallace School is close to Horton’s Point.  There was also Stake Road and Upper Malagash School.  Malagash Point School was out at the point.  The North Shore School was half way between the mine and Smith Road. When the salt mine first started and the population increased, the North Shore school became too small.  The walk to it was almost two miles.  A meeting was held, and it was decided to get a teacher and board him two weeks at a time with the parents and hold classes in one of the old, now unused, bunkhouses that were built to house the men.  The first teacher was a Mr. Yorston from PEI.  He had lost a foot in the Great War.  All was well until he was boarded with a family with a grade ten boy.  The boy decided that the man was acting strangely and avoided him.  The next place also had teen age boys and the next.  A quick meeting was held one night and Mr. Yorston was escorted to Malagash Station and presented with a ticket to PEI.  A school to replace the bunkhouse was built in 1937.

The last school closed in 1982, and it was one of the last one-room schools in the province.

Other Interesting Facts

  • A small settlement was started once the salt mine began.  The workers rented or built homes nearby.  A grocery store was started by Jack Johnson and then the Densmores.  Ed Long started a pool hall which was also an ice cream parlour.  Art Mitchell had a small grocery store in his home and showed movies.  A miner’s hall was built after the miners unionized, and a post office opened. 

  • In 1901, the Malagash wharf was built by Baxter Robinson from Fox Harbour.  A ferry went from the Malagash wharf to the Tatamagouche wharf three times a day on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday run by the government.  In the winter, people would drive across the ice to get there.  Some were responsible for bushing the ice. Everyone was responsible to keep the roads in shape.  Men had short sections of road about three miles long to keep cleared and if they didn’t do their share, they were fined.

  • The telephone was put in in 1904 or 1905.

  • On May 24, 1928, the war memorial at Stake Road was unveiled.  Also that day the Malagash Calf club was organized. 

  • In 1931 or 32, the United Church manse was built at Stake Road by William Halverson and Earl Kirk.  Aitchison Clark and Bismark MacLean hauled stone for the basement and Biz was paid 10 cents an hour.  Next to it was Still Purdy’s house also built by W. Halverson in 1932.   The first minister to live in it was Rev. Daniel C. MacKenzie; his wife was Irene Seaman.  The first marriage performed there was a Danish couple - her name may have been Christensen.

  • After Malagash wharf was built, in 1932 or 1936, a large storage shed was built with a surveyor belt extension to run the salt out to the boats.

  • In 1938, the Malagash baseball team won the Southern Section of the Cumberland County Baseball championship and entered the playoffs.  Joggins eventually won.

  • In 1938 on Sept. 15th, the Saddle Island lobster factory burned.

  • In 1944, the first tractor in the area was bought.

  • On August 26, 1948, electric power was turned on in Malagash.

  • On April 14, 1966, the Malagash wharf burned.

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